9 December 2010

Free, Free & Free; a question of paradox

As Chris Anderson notes in the opening of “Free: The future of a radical price”, the notion of Free in the English language is, in essence, confused. Derived from two Latin words “Liber” (meaning freedom and liberty, Duh) and “Gratis” (meaning without recompense or no price, duh) the bastard that is English at some point stuck them together, their meanings distinct yet permanently connected. This collision of meaning still haunts the term, compounded further by the commodification of everything in the post-industrial capitalist west, the idea of liberty seems difficult to separate from understandings of economy (I’m hesitant to ‘deploy’ the word markets as its well loaded nah).
This confusion of terms is topical; the activists protesting the end of education (whoops, fell off the fence), seem unable or perhaps unwilling to separate the meanings. The argument to make education without charge, aka Free, is being tied totally to the idea of education being an instrument of personal and socio-political liberty. The two notions of free are osciliated between often at a speed of several switches per sentence.
Is this a bad thing?
Maybe not. The advantage of using the word free in the English language is that you get to play with which conception of free you are using, and that you can use one to benefit the other endlessly; after all Free is awesomely powerful. But its also awesomely dangerous; once you being to play with liberty you enter its deadly paradox; to even try to enforce liberty/freedom is to destroy it. It is the most fragile of ideas, broken by so much as a wrong thought.
The climate camp protestors, sorry, occupationary activists have to make a decision over what freedom they are fighting for; we all do. If their fight is economic then that is one thing. If however it resides within a question of liberty and ones entitlement to it then you run the risk of making the mistake of every revolutionary group since the dawn of civilization: excluding people, impinging others and prohibiting activities. As someone probably dead once said “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” and the same is historically true with insurrectionists and their claims to liberty.
To those who rightly support a gratis system of education I ask you to question the communist motives behind many activists and their supporters; do not be fooled by their claims to liberty. They are not righteous.
Afterall, there are good things that can be done with a non state-run education, there is a possibility of liberty with the opening up to the markets (whoops). Afterall many of the west’s most profitable companies charge nothing for their goods or services. Whats the point of this blog post? Same as crossing the road,
Obligatory picture of French revolutionary violence

No comments:

Post a Comment